At its Mid-Winter Gala on January 31, the Magnolia Bar Foundation will honor Phelps Dunbar partners Judges Reuben V. Anderson and Fred L. Banks, Jr. with the “Legacy of Leadership Award.” This award is presented to a member of the Magnolia Bar Association who is over the age of 50 years and has made invaluable contributions not only to the Magnolia Bar Association, but to the State of Mississippi and those citizens who are unable to speak for themselves and/or afford attorneys to represent them in matters that affect their basic rights.
Judges Anderson and Banks are considered pioneers in the legal field in Mississippi. Judge Anderson was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, where he served from 1985-1991. Judge Banks also served on the Mississippi Supreme Court from 1991-2001.
Judge Anderson has been committed to civil rights and justice for decades. In addition to his service on the Mississippi Supreme Court, he served as judge for a number of local courts, including the 7th Circuit Court District, Hinds County, and the City of Jackson. Prior to his judicial career, Judge Anderson was a name partner in the firm of Anderson, Banks, Nichols & Stewart, which was engaged in the integration of more than 100 Mississippi school systems in the 1960s and 1970s. He also served as Mississippi Associate Counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and the Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government at the University of Mississippi. In 1991, Judge Anderson joined Phelps Dunbar as a partner, where he practices in the areas of commercial litigation and regulatory and governmental matters.
Judge Banks, also formerly a name partner in the firm of Anderson, Banks, Nichols & Stewart, focused his practice on civil rights litigation, criminal capital defense and non-profit representation prior to starting his judicial career. In 1975, he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served as chair of the House Ethics Committee, House Judiciary Committee, and Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus. He became a judge in 1984 and was appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1991. Judge Banks joined Phelps Dunbar in 2001. He currently practices in the areas of appellate litigation, commercial litigation, and alternative dispute resolution.